(CNN) — For those of us who approach things by the Goldilocks Principle (not too little, not too much), spring equinox is practically perfect.
That means we get that glorious balance of daytime and nighttime all over the world — from the equator extending to the poles — with just about 12 hours of each.
Spring equinox 2019 is coming on Wednesday, March 20, and it’s eagerly awaited around the globe.
For people in the Northern Hemisphere who have been shivering through a dark winter, it brings the promise of longer days, increasing warmth, a burst of flowers and more time outdoors.
Spring equinox has another name
If you ever hear anyone say “vernal equinox,” it means the same thing.
The term equinox comes from the Latin word “equinoxium,” meaning “equality between day and night.” And vernal also comes from Latin and means spring.
The equinoxes aren’t exactly ‘equal’
It turns out you actually get a little more daylight than darkness on the equinox, depending where you are on the planet. How does that happen?
This bending of light rays “causes the sun to appear above the horizon when the actual position of the sun is below the horizon.” The day is a bit longer at higher latitudes than at the equator because it takes the sun longer to rise and set the closer you get to the poles.
When is spring equinox — exactly?
Cultures and countries around the world mark spring equinox with various holidays. Here are a few of them:
The holiday has its roots in the ancient Shintoism religion. Adherents believed that every natural object possessed a spiritual force. During spring, trees and flowers thrive, so eventually the vernal equinox became the official day for celebrating.
It’s a national holiday in India, and it is celebrated on the day after the full moon in the Hindu month of Phalguna. It’s not a uniform holiday — the start and end dates can vary by region and the duration of the celebration can be different, too. For many Indians in 2019, Holi will start on Wednesday, March 20, and end the next day.
For many Westerners, the holiday is known for the vibrantly colored powders with which people cover themselves and others.
Easter: It’s no coincidence that Christians around the world celebrate the resurrection of Jesus around the same time that spring brings a rebirth to nature (in the temperate zones of the Northern Hemisphere, at any rate).
Ancient sites and gatherings
Our ancestors had a keen awareness of the seasons and the movements of the sun and other stars. They built mysterious sites that have at least one obvious use: that of giant calendars, often aligned to prominently display shafts of sunlight during solstices and equinoxes.
Here are just a few of them:
Stonehenge, England: The most famous Neolithic structure in England if not the world is the gathering place for pagans, druids and the plain curious during spring equinox.
2019 equinox bonus: Supermoon!
You have to go back to 1981 to find the full moon and the spring equinox occurring on the same date.
During a supermoon, our orbital neighbor appears brighter and a little larger than usual as it rises.